Monday, July 29, 2013

How's the book coming?

I am getting that question quite often these days, and rightfully so.  I am writing the first book of my career. My first, so it won't be my last.

It's a big thing.  A REALLY BIG THING.

I am afraid my answer to this question isn't really giving people a lot of confidence in me either.

I usually look at them with glazed over eyes, a little lost and a lot overwhelmed, and always tired.  And with that look I pause and then say, "It's good.  I mean it's going OK."  And then I don't know where to go from there, because what I really want to say is this:

Aggghhhhh!!!!!!!!  I have so many emotions I don't know which one to grab onto in this moment!

It is more work than I ever anticipated.

It's incredibly hard. When I say hard, I mean it in a 'go through 9 months of painful pregnancy where you are sick almost every day, you get painful gas and gross stretch marks, you are excited for this adventure but didn't realize you would loose your ankles, your identity, your bladder and your sanity in the process.  Then you go through 36 hours of labor and 5 hours of pushing a baby out of your body that you are pretty sure isn't supposed to come through that way.' That kind of every day, all that I am is this process.  That's what I mean by hard.

It's frustrating because when you have time to write, the thoughts don't come.  Then when they do, you've written one page in four hours when you thought you would have the next chapter done.

I have never felt more insecure in my life!  Questioning and double guessing if it's enough, if what you have written should be said a different way.  Do you tell a story in a third person, first person?  Do I write the story like I tell it from stage?  Geezzzz, all those thoughts, then I have to spend the next half hour in prayer getting rid of those insecure thoughts that I intended to spend writing.  Now I am behind again!

I always feel behind.

I always feel stressed.

I always feel pressure.  Pressure that if I am sitting still, I should be writing or researching for the book.   Moments of peace aren't mine to have these days.

I feel imbalanced.  Every aspect of my life winding its way around this project and I don't like it.  It easily takes the joy out of it and I don't want that.  I want to love this, to enjoy this, to feel inspired by this.  Those moments feel too few and far between.

I feel excited that what once was a dream is going to be a reality.

I feel very blessed to have a writing partner that makes this book better, and then try not to feel inadequate in the process.

I feel like I can't give the book my whole attention, or my family , or my life, or my friends.

I feel overwhelmed by people's confidence in this project, in me.  Their encouragement, their kind words, their prayers, their help babysitting, all so I can write and not neglect the kids.

I feel worried about people's expectations.

I feel overwhelmed by own.

I feel scared about Henry's.

Then I pray again.

And it's better.  I remember that I do this because I feel called to honor God in this and support my family and extend my ministry.  I remember that I won't be defined by this moment or this project.  That this project is one step in the journey of discovering myself as a writer, a speaker, a professional, a person.  This is not all I have, this is just the beginning.

Then I when I wake up, I go through all these thoughts again.  It is a constant picking up the stress and letting it go.

So...I am not sure how to answer that question when people ask me.  I really just want to blurt out all these things and how much of a mess I feel most of the time.  But I don't.  I just say, "It's good".

I do believe it is good.  Being refined by this process is good.  Pushing at my insecurities and my stress and my life values are good.  They force me to think through my choices, my identity and who I am.  They force me to let go of expectations I didn't realize I was trying to live up to.  They allow me to see God's goodness in this process.  They give me a more aware sense of self, and this is before anyone has even read the book! I can't imagine the tough skin I am going to need when the book comes out.

So, as hard as this is, it is good.  But that one word means all these things to me right now.  Through this process, I am more open, vulnerable and humble and excited all at the same time.  In the end, I realize why so many people equate writing a book with having a baby.  It makes sense to me.  The process is so much harder than you anticipated, but the rewards of self discovery and having your heart out there in print is totally going to be worth it.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Living in the tension: How do we help others?

Driving to the grocery store, I noticed a man lying on the ground at the bus stop.  Something in the way he was haphazardly lying there, told me it wasn't a natural nap position.  I have seen countless homeless men and women lying on the ground to rest.  I have seen even more college students, or bikers, resting in the grass as they wait for the bus.  Nothing about this man's position communicated that he landed that way on the ground on purpose.  His arm was akwardly behind his head and his legs didn't look natural.

Something didn't seem right.

I was driving, and only had a moment to process what I saw.  I had to keep driving, or risk getting hit by the car behind me.

It didn't feel right though, driving away.

Every other car I saw was driving away.  None of them were driving toward the man to help.

I sat at the light and processed what it meant that we live in a culture that dozens of cars would pass a man, not moving, lying on the ground in an unnatural way.  It made me sad to be apart of the culture that was either too busy, too focused or too scared to care.  (Does this remind you of a parable Christ told?)

The light turned green and I turned around to go back.

At the very same time that I drove up, two other cars had turned around and were stopping.

My faith in humanity being restored a little in that moment.

I got out of my car to check the situation and talk with one of the other women that stopped who was on the phone with 911.  We could see he was breathing, but he still looked so unnatural and very, very still.  No one had approached him or touched him.

I walked over closer to the man so that I could get a better look and he could hear me talk to him.  I was just out of arms reach, and asked in a loud voice if he was OK.  He sat up, startled, and said he was fine.  I asked if he needed help, and he just laid back down.

Something didn't feel right.

I went to stand back next to the other women, and then the sirens of the police came from every direction.  Before we knew it, three police cars pulled up and took over.

An officer came out of her car and asked the gentleman if he was alright.  He sat up again, attesting to the fact that he was fine.  She asked if he needed any help since he was at the bus station and missed the bus just moments before.  His immediate response was, "PLEASE!  Don't take me back to rehab."

The officers looked at us and told us everything would be fine.  They told us they had it covered, they thanked us for phoning in, and we could go about our day.  These women and I exchanged glances, not knowing what else to do and said our good byes.

I did my shopping and on the way home 20 minutes later, the police were still there with an ambulance getting ready to the take the man to the local hospital.

I felt sad and relieved at the same time.  Life is clearly difficult for this man, but I was so thankful he was getting  help.

I came home and starting telling this tale to Paul with Big listening intently to our conversation.  Paul was of course immediately frustrated with me that I got out of the car.  He let his frustration show in the way he exhaled his breath.  Then he said something like, "Why did you do something so dumb?"

To which Big cried, "Mama didn't do anything dumb!  That's bad to say that dad.  She helped someone!  She did what she was supposed to.   Mama did something nice!"

Paul let me finish, then turned to Big and said, "I am happy mommy helped someone.  I really am.  But mommy could have stayed in the car where she was safe and called 911.  She risked her life by getting out and approaching that man.  He could have tricked her and was there waiting for an attack.  I always want mommy to help, but I need her to be safe.  She could have helped just as much by staying safely in the car, and getting the police there."

That is where the tension is.  That is what I felt in the car as I watched so many people pass by.  Not doing anything to help.  Not stopping.

How do we live in the light of hope and love while always being aware and safeguarding against the darkness?

I completely understand where Paul is coming from.  I get it.

And even while I get it, it breaks my heart that thoughts of protecting myself while helping others is a needed reality.

Gone are the days of just simply putting the needs of someone else before your own.  It is needed  to be aware of the traps and scams and people that will take advantage of kindness.  It hurt as Paul and I tried to explain this to our son.  We deeply desire to spur him on towards loving and helping others.  We want his life to reflect a heart for all people.  And yet, in that reality, we must make sure that he is at least aware of the darkness.  Aware enough that he is smart in the way he lives and comes to the aid of friends and strangers as he grows older.

There lies a tension in seeing people in their brokenness and doing what we can to help and love them, while remaining smart about how we go about it.

I want to throw caution out the window and just dive in.  I don't want to think about myself, or believe the worst in people.  I desire to do whatever I can to help someone, just because they need it.  However, Paul is right.  We live in a world where that could have easily been a trap and I would have walked right into it.  I could have suffered great damage or been one of thousands of women who disappear at the hands of a stranger, thus leaving behind a husband and three children, wifeless and motherless.

We can't be the people who just drive by, not seeing, or being too terrified to step out in love, worried always only about ourselves.

We must be a people who live in the hardness of the tension, especially as we teach our children.  We must be a people who helps a fellow man or woman or child in their moment of need.  I believe we can do it, while we are smart about it. 

We can't let fear win.

Love has to win.  Selflessness must win.  Compassion still exists, even in the tension.

I don't have an answer.  I don't know how to teach my children about this whole idea of loving others while protecting yourself.  I wrestle with it, not knowing how to understand it or live in it.

But I know I desire to find a way.  I desire for my children to always help others, and I desire for them to be smart.

In the meantime, we live in the tension, (hopefully leaning more towards love and selflessness).

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Taking care of business

I am writing a book.

I am writing a Bible Study, discussion guides and four brand new talks for a large conference in Sept.

I am writing four brand new talks and four group discussion guides for a camp I am speaking at next week.

I am working on our kids summer school schedule, planning field trips, organizing cooking classes, reading projects and math homework.

I am creating my first ever website on my own, which is is a HUGE feat for me and one I am growing more proud of, but am on a steep learning curve.

I am working with a great gal that is doing some business things for me, including researching new places where my ministry would be a good fit and doing some local booking to keep me closer to home.

I am writing and creating a new press kit to help connect with new clients.

I am gardening and weeding and harvesting and canning already.

These are the reasons I have't been blogging, even though I have so much I want to share with you.  Many of these projects will be done by August, but I am hoping to do a bit more blogging before then.

I wanted to tell you though that soon my blog won't be posted here.  It will be connected with my new website on Squarespace.  I will continue to post here for a bit, and help transition this site, but soon I will only post on the new website.  I will have a feeder there that you can sign up for to get notifications directly to your email when I post if you are that much of a fan.

I find it common decency to at least let you know that soon I will be changing things over.  The website is coming along and is almost ready.

Thank you all for your patience.  I enjoy doing life with you and will get back to posting soon.  Having free time at camp allows a bit more time for fun writing, on my blog.

Be blessed today and I will keep you posted about the switch over and new website.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Hiking turns us into a circus

As we walked to the rose quartz mine this year, it reminded me so much of our experience from last year.

Somehow because of the schedule, I still ended up in a skirt and ballet slipper shoes.  I had Paul with me though and 15 other people so it was easier to pass Little around instead of carrying her on my own.

We did run into a few mutilated deer limbs though, which I am not sure I will ever get used to.  Seeing animal body parts that have been torn to shred by a larger, fiercer animal should by my first indicator that I should turn and go home.

We paused just as much  though as Big gathered so many rocks before we even got to the mine that he had to hold his pants up, otherwise the weight would pull them down.

Apparently this little hike seems to bring out our ridiculousness.

Either way, here is a fun story for you to read and enjoy from our South Dakota camping adventure.

I did laugh out loud when I read that I shouldn't do this hike again, or at least remember what happened last year.  Clearly, I didn't do that before we went hiking, me in my skirt and girl shoes.

Happy evening everyone.

Friday, July 5, 2013

The storms that seem to destroy our trust

It was early morning, the kids fell back asleep tucked in their car seats and wrapped in their blankets.  I had iced coffee and Sanders Bohke filling the car with soulful rich music.  It was a beautiful way to start our 12 hour drive home.  I was waiting for the sun to come up and greet us.  I was looking forward to the start of a brand new day, with the hopes of being filled with adventure and giggles from my kids as we sang silly songs and played games in the car.

We were heading west, so I watched the first signs of orange and red in the rearview mirror.  The further we drove however, it was clear that there was a huge storm in front of us.  At one point, immediately after the kids woke up, the sun was shining behind us, there were gray clouds over us, with slight sprinkles that brought out a double rainbow, but in the distance, I saw the blackness and I worried.  Big still really struggles with storms.  His triggers are dark clouds and thunder and instead of being safely tucked in a home under its protection, we were traveling in the big metal box that he saw damaged and pierced with tree limbs in the tornado two years ago.  His faith in our current protection was shattered as he too noticed the black clouds coming.  He looked out and said in a high pitched worried voice, “mama, its coming!  Look, something bad is coming!”

I tried to reassure him that we would be OK.  We worked on reality therapy.  I would ask him questions like, “Does thunder hurt us?  What is thunder?  What happens if it rains?  Who is bigger than this storm?  What has you worried the most?”  All these things he would answer, trying to hold onto the truth that the rain doesn't hurt and the thunder is just noise and we are never left alone.

But then we drove in the storm and even I got afraid.  Never in my life have I driven through such a storm.  It was almost like a winter white out, the rain was coming down so hard I couldn't see if front of us.  The sky moved from grey, to dark, to midnight black.  The rain pounded our car so hard that I couldn't even talk to the kids.  I had to scream to them that we were all right which just seemed to make it worse.  The thunder cracked so loud the windshield shook at one point.  The lightening would pierce the sky over and over.  My hands were white knuckled on the steering wheel and I kept questioning whether we should pull over and stop and wait it out.  I knew though however that if I kept focused we could push through and get through the storm faster, than just sitting in it and waiting for it to pass. 

I needed my kids to trust me.  I took my eyes off the road for one brief moment to check the review mirror to make sure they were OK.  I saw all three kids huddled together with their blankets over their heads.  I saw Big, Middle and Little all holding hands.

As I drove through that storm, I am sure my children wished with all their might that I would pull over and find a safer place to be.   They wished that somehow I could make the storm stop, to just make it go away and bring the sun back.  But I wasn't doing that.  I kept driving through the storm and I needed them to trust me.  I needed them to trust me to make the right choice in driving through the storm.   That I knew when the storm was OK to drive through, and when it was time to pull over.  I needed them to trust that I would keep them safe even though they were scared.  I needed them to trust my love for them, that even though things were very hard right in this moment, I wouldn't do anything to hurt them.  Even when it felt absolutely terrifying, I needed them to trust me.

And then the rain started to ease up.  The thunder slowly started to sound softer, and the lightening was no longer flashing in the sky.  Streams of light starting to shine through the clouds and all of a sudden, we were on the other side.  The blackness we just drove through was behind us, reflecting in the review mirror, and the light was bright in front of us.

We had made it.

The kids slowly pulled down their blankets from their heads, and peaked out.  They cautiously looked at me and asked, “Is it over?  Are we safe again?” 

Yes.  We made it through.  Even though it was scary and hard, we made it through.

In the midst of the storm it was impossible to imagine it being over.  The storm raged so loud around us that it was all we could see, all we could hear, all we could live in.  I wasn't thinking about when it was over, I was thinking about, how do we live in this place right now and be OK?

And then God spoke softly in my heart, reminding me of how little I trust him when things are truly hard and overwhelming in my life and all I can see is the pain and the suffocating struggle of every day.  In that moment in the car, he begged me to trust him, just as I wanted my children to trust me.

There are days when I shut down and I hide in books or TV or FB or Twitter and I don’t want to come out.  I don’t want to face the things that make life hard.  I hide instead of handing my struggle to the Lord really learning what it means to trust him to guide me through it.

My children made it through that terrifying experience in the car that day.  While we walked back to our cabin this week in the black hills of SD, there were black clouds approaching and thunder rumbling in the distance.  As Big squeezed my hand, he looked at me and said, “We made it through that bad storm in the car mama, we can get through this one too.”

That is the great thing about trust.  When you put your trust in the one who can provide for you and get you through, every storm gets a little easier because they have proven to be trustworthy.  They become someone you can count on.

I spoke to Henry that day in the car and recalled the storm experience for him.  The first thing he said to me was, “You have a story in there.”  And he was right.

God has a way of taking the moments in our life and turning them into truths that we can hold on to get us through this journey called life.  These moments that can ground us in peace and love as we fight through the storms of life.  Our little family was scared that day, but we are stronger for it and God rested his peaceful hand on our hearts.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

As we press on

I sat in a worship service in the black hills tonight.  I was surrounded by family and friends and strangers.  The candles were lit, the lights low, the music soft and gentle brushing over people’s hearts.  It wasn't just quiet, it was still.

We all faced the cross and the words were read, “Take a deep breath.  Breathe in and breathe out, breathe the very breath that connects you to the one who made you.”

I closed my eyes tight hoping beyond hope that I could grasp onto that connection.  I wanted desperately to feel passionately about my faith again.  I have been running on empty.  That deep connection to your spirit, the one that lights up your eyes has been missing.  The list of things to do weighs heavier on me than I like to admit.  Instead of breaking down, I have become numb.  I get through the day.  I try to laugh and enjoy my family each day.  I try to write and find progress on the long list of projects that people are waiting to get from me.  I try to somehow just maintain a semi clean home where my family has clothes to wear and something to eat.  The monotony of each day with the pressure to accomplish super human possibilities causes me to shut down so that I can keep pressing towards the goal.  I accomplish all these things, but they are done with heaviness in my heart and a worn look in my spirit.

My prayers seem rehearsed.

The Biblical teaching to my children when correcting or encouraging them feels empty.

My running in the morning that used to be filled with cries out to God for guidance and help are silent these days.  I don’t even know what to say.  I fill pages after pages with words for multiple projects and then I have none when I am left alone to share my heart with God.

All the things that I used to do to try to reconnect to my spirit aren't working.  Or I am too tired to really care to try.

It feels stale, and worn and tiring.

I used to believe that it was wrong to say such things, till I realized that at some point we all feel that way.  About our faith, our life, our relationships.  Trying to ignore it never works though.

But tonight, in the black hills of South Dakota, I breathed deep.  I breathed out and breathed in.

I was reminded that the very breath I have inside of me is the one God gave me directly.  It is his breath that gives us life.  And so even in the midst of feeling distant and cold and shut down, I am still connected to him and my spirit because I live.

Because I am alive, he is with me.

Even when I am running on empty, he does not leave me.  Every breath I take belongs to him.

I had peace in my soul for the first time in awhile remembering this truth.

I am not alone, nor am I lost.

He remains with me, even when I am over committed and underwhelmed.

He is also with you, in every breath you take.